Lady Eagles Advance to Elite 8 State Tournament
Posted On:
Wednesday, October 25, 2017
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From Times-Georgian Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Just one month ago, a second straight trip to Columbus seemed unlikely for the Mount Zion High School softball team as the ballclub was mired in a midseason slump. Fast-forward to today and the Lady Eagles are making final preparations for the Class A Public School state quarterfinals at the South Commons Complex, where they'll kick off the double-elimination tournament against rival Bowdon at 9 a.m. on Thursday. "We're thrilled to have this opportunity," said senior second baseman Josie Henessy. "Not many teams get the chance to be where we are, so it's amazing that we get to go back."

MZ (14-13) certainly had to fight and battle its way into the current position as one of the state's elite eight, surviving not just one, but two three-game series during the postseason. Knocking off one of the state's highest-ranked teams to advance to Columbus, head coach Jennifer Carter believes her players have the willpower to go head-to-head with anyone.

"The girls upset the No. 2 seed in Wilcox County last week and that was huge," Carter said. "Wilcox was a really good team and I think that gave our girls the confidence they needed to head into this next round." It also helps knowing that they can play in almost any environment, as well. "We've come to be known as the 'Road Warriors' here," Carter said. "We seem to do much better on the road, so heading to Columbus might be an advantage for us yet again."

Mount Zion's path to the elite eight wasn't without its fair share of bumps. At one point during the regular season, the Lady Eagles went on a 10-game losing streak where the team went over a month without a single victory. But like last season, MZ started to click at the right time when the team banded together. "We just started to really work together and work as a team," said senior outfielder Jana Crews. "Once we started to work together, everything started to come together," added senior Katie Cross. "Once that started to happen, we just went from there and starting rolling."

When the Lady Eagle ballclub arrives in Columbus, it will be greeted by several familiar faces. Three of MZ's Region 6-A contemporaries in Gordon Lee, Trion and Bowdon are also representing in the field of eight, making the path to a championship a familiar one.

"We play in the toughest region in the state of Georgia," Carter said. "Region 6-A has four of the eight teams in the elite eight, so that gives our girls confidence knowing that they've already seen the best of the best all season long."

And that familiarity begins when they once again go up against a Bowdon squad led in the circle by ace hurler Macy Bearden. Falling to the rival Red Devilettes twice already this season, they know exactly what they're up against. Pulling off a win will be a simple matter of execution.

"They're certainly a good team going behind a good pitcher so we know what we have to do to win," Carter said. "The bottom line is that we have to hit, make the routines on defense and just play our game. From there, we'll see what happens, but I feel good about our chances."

The winner of this matchup will face either Emmanuel County Institute or Echols County later that evening at 7 p.m. while the losers will be thrust into an elimination game at 10 a.m. on Friday. Like everyone else, MZ wants to make it through to Saturday, and according to senior first baseman Taylor Knight, a few simple traits will factor into how far it goes.

"Focus and determination," Knight said. "We can't just be satisfied that we're in Columbus. We have to execute and finish."

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